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Solar plane, 1st of its kind, Airbus-sized, around the world without fuel & with zero emissions: prototype runway debut


By WcP.Scientific.Mind - Posted on 22 December 2009

Solar Impulse solar plane, and its founders / pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg

(quote)

The prototype of a solar-powered plane, the size of an Airbus and the weight of a mid-sized car, destined for a record round-the-world journey has made its 1st trip across a runway. The plane covered at least 2km at speeds of up to 5 knots on the landing strip in Switzerland. This test run saw the Solar Impulse plane outside its hangar for the first time, with tests of its motors and computer. As wide as a jumbo jet but weighing just 1,500 kg, the plane's maiden flight is scheduled for February in 2010, and a final version will attempt to cross the Atlantic in 2012. HB-SIA’s mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of a night flight making sole use of solar energy. It is a “no frills” plane built solely for verifying our technological choices. It is a true “flying lab”. The results gained from it will be used for optimizing the construction of the HB-SIB, whose mission it will be to fly around the world without fuel and with zero emissions as from 2012.

Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype: plane made of carbon fiber, on-board computing system helps minimize energy consumption, gondolas (x4) contain motor and batteries for storing power; wingspan: 61m, weight: 1500kg, max altitude: 8500m, speed: 70km/h

A spokesperson for Solar Impulse said the first runway test went just as planned. If all tests are successful, the next step will be a short flight, or "flea hop". Solar Impulse chief executive Andre Borschberg told BBC News: "We'll take off at the beginning of the runway, fly a few metres above it - a little bit like the Wright brothers did in 1903 - and then land again, to see how it behaves at the beginning of the flight. If this is satisfactory, we will dismantle it and transport it [to Payerne air force base in western Switzerland] where we will do the real first flight of about two hours, in February." But each step will be a careful one, Mr Borschberg stressed. "This is truly a new design - an airplane the size of an Airbus and the weight of a mid-sized car - so we're not taking risks by not understanding something."

Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, both pioneers and innovators, both pilots, are driving force behind Solar Impulse

The airplane is the means of transport using the most energy and it alone represents more than 3 % of the total gas emissions contributing to the greenhouse effect on the planet. If all airplanes were to become solar, this would be tremendous. In a world depending on fossil energies, the Solar Impulse project is a paradox, almost a provocation: it aims to have an airplane take off and fly autonomously, day and night, propelled uniquely by solar energy, right round the world without fuel or pollution. An unachievable goal without pushing back the current technological limits in all fields.

solar-powered plane from Solar Impulse makes successful runway debut

Two men, both pioneers and innovators, both pilots, are the driving force behind Solar Impulse. Bertrand Piccard, psychatrist and aeronaut, who once made the first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight, is the initiator and chairman. André Borschberg, an engineer and graduate in management science, a fighter pilot and a professional airplane and helicopter pilot, is the CEO. The former’s avant-gardist vision and the latter’s entrepreneurial and managerial experience are an ideal combination.

Bertrand Piccard is the son of Jacques Piccard (hydronaut) and the grandson of Auguste Piccard (physicist, aeronaut, balloonist, hydronaut).

Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, founders of Solar Impulse

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of Solar Impulse

Original Source: BBC News and Solar Impulse

The speed of only 70 km/h isn't very impressive but that wasn't the aim! I admire green environmentally safe inventions! I adore fully-electric vehicles and this solar power plane is also adorable!

This is great. I wonder if they will use a similar mechanism for the cars. I will definitely change my car. It`s very important to protect the environement and the solar power is a perfect solution.

If something like this works on cars, then we could all celebrate.

While we have oil owners wanting millions, all kinds of alternative energy is out of law.

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